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This is my first review of a truly great perfume. I don't think I've been qualified to write anything about a perfume as complex and perfectly composed as Shalimar.
I recently experienced for the first time the 1967+ vintage Shalimar extrait/parfum, in the black and white zigzag box, with the purple flocked inner box adorned with the fabled gold Marly horse design inside the lid. Its ferocious beauty has emboldened me to try to do it justice. I compare it to the blue-boxed current parfum. That is the only other formulation I know well. Here goes ...
It opens with a beautifully radiant bergamot note. That soon recedes into a chorus that is dark, smoky, sweet and animalic. It's complexly organic, not just animalic in the "check-the-box", "yeah, it's in there" synthetic aromachemical sense. It builds to a sharp, nose-singing kerosene bite. It literally burns a bit when sniffed close to the skin.
It is intense, and utterly captivating. It goes in through the nose, passes through the brain, down the spine, and grabs you by the core. Nothing else I've smelled has such a visceral effect. People say that vintage Shalimar makes them feel weak in the knees, or feel faint. You think this must be hyperbole. It's not. If any perfume has the power to incapacitate, it is this vintage of Shalimar in its opening movement. The current version has much the same character, but is much less intense - not in potency or projection - in depth, darkness, and complexity. The opening is the best part.
After that, the heart is still gorgeous, but it loses that raw gut-wrenching power. It is much more floral - rounder and sexier that the current parfum. More feminine, most would say. I don't care, though. It's too good for that to matter. I think I smell jasmine, rose, and iris - I'm not sure, as I'm not great at separating out notes. I'm sure there's much more than those three anyway. It's very natural and complex to my nose. I would guess that these were still all natural florals in this vintage. I don't know if the current parfum still has any, but there's a big difference, I think. Resorting to an analogy, I'll say that the vintage is like an oil painting, where the current is like a pixelated digital image. The current is very angular and sort of represents the idea of the floral elements, where the vintage feels ... real! The heart is where the vintage and current differ the most in character.
The drydown is all smoky vanilla and sweet resins, overlaid with the fading light of the heart. By the time the florals are gone, it is very similar to the current version. That makes sense, as I don't think any of the base components are restricted, scarce, or particularly expensive. It's deliciously edible by this point. One of the nicest drydowns in all of perfumedom.
This is the best perfume I've ever known.
If I'm going to rate it, I'll say that on a scale of 1 to 10, this one goes to 11. I have to do something to stand it apart from all of the other 10s.
09th April, 2012